Minister for civil society, Rob Wilson MP, has announced there is to be another review of the Social Value Act.
Precise details about the scope of the review are still emerging, but we understand it will involve working with innovators and leaders in social value to evaluate progress made since Lord Young’s Review in 2015 (which NCVO contributed to) in order to help shape the next phase of implementing the Act.
NCVO welcomes the review, which makes good on Lord Young’s recommendation that government conduct a follow up evaluation of the Act two years after his initial report.
Young’s report marked a positive development for social value commissioning, not least because it signalled the government’s commitment to the agenda.
However, for us (and others), Young’s report represented a missed opportunity, in that it didn’t address the key issue of public bodies lacking the skills, knowledge and inclination needed to put a social value commissioning strategy into practice.
Therefore, we’ll once again be reiterating calls for a combination of statutory guidance, training and amendments to the Act in our response to the forthcoming review.
Recommended amendments to the Act
For the Social Value Act to fully realise its potential, we believe the following amendments are necessary:
- The requirement that public bodies ‘consider’ social value in public sector contracts should be upgraded so that they must ‘account for’ social value.This would help provide the Act with the ‘teeth’ many believe it currently lacks.
- The requirement that public bodies ‘consider’ consulting when looking to include social value in a procurement should be strengthened so that they must ‘account for’ consultation. Consultation with service users and organisations that advocate on their behalf is vital for effective and efficient public services. Commissioning for social value is no different.
- The government should remove the EU procurement threshold clause. The removal of this clause would therefore send a clear signal that social value should apply to all contracts, not just those above a certain value.
- The Act should be extended beyond services to goods and works. Not only would this generate better outcomes and long term savings for the taxpayer, it would also make it easier for contracting authorities to implement social value strategies.
Training and guidance
Legislative change alone is not enough. We believe government must also produce statutory guidance to help and encourage contracting authorities to use the Social Value Act to its full potential. Since coming into force in 2013 it has been widely acknowledged (by all sectors) that the absence of effective guidance has hampered implementation.
Similarly, we’ll also be highlighting how meaningful improvements to social value commissioning and procurement practice requires high quality training, for example, through an expansion of the Commissioning Academy programme.
Progress made on Lord Young’s recommendations
It’s our hope that the review will also report on progress made around Lord Young’s 2015 recommendations, which called on government to:
- Issue a cross-Whitehall paper on what each central government department has achieved to date on social value.
- Engage senior civil servants and ministers in championing social value, and consider ways to support these champions to network.
- Continue to target senior commissioners through the Commissioning Academy and its associated products.
- Investigate ways to incentivise the take-up of social value.
- Work with existing procurement networks to include social value in professional development training.
We are currently seeking further details about the precise remit of the review. Once we know more, we will of course report back. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on how things have progressed since the last review, or would like to share your views on the social value agenda more generally, please get in touch by commenting below.